Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance

Top Shelf Month enters its second week with a "real" book.

I was a little bit surprised when I cracked open this little hardcover that it was not a graphic novel at all, but a book with illustrations added to spruce up each chapter. Along with a biting portrait of each vice president, from John Adams to Dick Cheney, is an occasional scene portraying a specific life event, but the majority of this book is words. It sort of reminded me of the Secret Lives series from Quirk Books, which I have enjoyed very much. Each entry has a short summary of each person's life followed by separate entries about notable accomplishments, dubious doings, calamitous events, and/or an interesting quotation. In all it was a very entertaining and informative read. After reading this book I can tell you:
What is striking about this book is just how random, uneven, and seemingly pointless the office has been historically. Some VPs are immensely talented while others just seem hopeless or inept. Some hardly knew who their running mate was, and some treated the office as a political death sentence. A select few had great accomplishments, though it seems that most simply held and office and lingered. I gained much insight into how insanely and arcanely politics often runs in the US after reading many of these passages.

It was difficult for me to find much information about this book's creators. Writer Bill Kelter is a businessman and contributes to sites like Politico. Artist Wayne Shellabarger does not have a lot of comics credits, but he is known for having drawn an array of rock posters in the past. The duo speak more about their collaboration on this book in this interview.

All the reviews I have seen online about this book have been glowing. Curt Holman called the book "playful" and added that its worth comes in how well it "illuminates the flaws and foibles in a political system that manages to elevate unworthy candidates while letting talent go to waste." Anthony Bergen gushed, "Veeps is a great read.  I loved it, and couldn’t put it down until it was finished.  It’s also a great-looking book, with fantastic art and a sweet design." Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow wrote that the book was "a snarky, thorough look at the foibles and missteps of the vice presidency," and added, "I had no idea how completely comic the office has been through the years."

There is a lot of information about this book, including a movie version, at its official site. Here is a preview and much more from the publisher.

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